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Meet Lanchester's Ginger Johnson, Winner of RuPaul's Drag Race UK

Meet Lanchester's Ginger Johnson, Winner of RuPaul's Drag Race UK
February 2024
Reading time 3 Minutes

Since the UK edition of RuPaul's Drag Race launched in 2019, it has become one of the BBC's biggest shows. Each series sees the UK's best drag performers battle it out to be named the best in the business, and in 2023 the North East reigned supreme

Lanchester's Ginger Johnson scooped the crown, while Michael Marouli from Newcastle and Tomara Thomas from Hartlepool were Ru's runners up. Living North spoke to Ginger about her Drag Race experience, what drag means to her, and returning to the North East with the joint show: Angels of the North.

Ginger tells me that the reality of being the winner of Drag Race has taken a while to sink in. After winning the show, she initially kept her crown packed away, until a few weeks later when she was appearing at RuPaul’s DragCon UK. ‘I got it out on the first day and put it on my table, and I was just like “What is going on? What is happening?”.

She might not yet believe it herself, but as a viewer it was impossible not to be drawn in by Ginger’s wholesome persona. Often, drag acts use a more catty style of humour (to brilliant effect) but from the off, Ginger was set apart by her warmth (Ginger describes herself as ‘the nice girl’) and a sense that she is not only older than the other acts, but than her creator. In previous interviews, she has said that, as well as Hollywood dames, she is partly inspired by the women her creator grew up around. ‘It’s that classic archetype of strong but also soft… I’m finding it hard to find my words because I’m thinking of all those women and they’re all popping up in front of me,’ she laughs, ‘but that’s definitely a key part of who Ginger is.’

She also thinks that the North East triumph in the final in this series was no coincidence. ‘Apart from being fabulous performers and amazing artists, the thing that really took me and Michael and Tomara to the end of the competition was the North East sense of spirit,’ she says. ‘We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we work hard at the job that we are doing and we try to have as much fun as we can. I think that’s a very North East mindset to have.’

Ginger, Michael and Tomara had never met before Drag Race, but they quickly formed an alliance. ‘When we walked in on the first day hearing Michael and Tomara’s accents immediately made me feel comfortable,’ she explains. ‘I’m really, really proud that it’s the three of us that were there in the finale because it means a lot to all of us.’

I tell her that I was surprised by how emotional I found myself in response to the wholehearted way they supported each other, despite being competitors. ‘That’s rare at the end of the show,’ she says. ‘I think oftentimes it’s gets to the finale and the top three aren’t always the best of friends because the competition can really get to you. I don’t mean to say that they don’t get on with each other in real life, but in the heat of the competition it can be quite hard… but the three of us didn’t find it hard at all – we were just having the best time!’

The bond they formed on the show will be culminating in a touring show together, Angels of the North. This will be touring the country in April, including a show that had to be upgraded to 02 City Hall Newcastle after the original venue proved too small to meet the demand from local fans. ‘It’s going to feel like a real homecoming to all of us,’ Ginger says. ‘I want it to be a really fab surprise for everybody, but I can tell you that we’re working really hard on it at the minute. We’ve had a lot of time for the ideas to percolate and we’re gonna be picking some bits up from the show that people have seen us do there, but there’s also lots of new stuff. It’s very, very silly. I think it’s gonna be a really warm, fun, ridiculous show.’

In her own work, Ginger has used drag as a medium to discuss heavier topics than we might associate with such a flamboyant art form. Her past shows have addressed themes like mental health, the relationships that queer people have with their families and even the environment, all while using comedy to keep her audiences engaged. ‘[Drag] opens the door to having a conversation about things that are quite complicated and difficult to hear,’ she explains. ‘When people are laughing they’re relaxed, that’s a good time to talk about some tricky things because it means that we’re all on the same side. You can talk without people getting their back up or getting worried or ashamed or any of those nasty emotions that stop us from growing and sharing with each other.’ But, she hastens to add, that doesn’t mean the shows aren’t good fun. ‘Just because you’re in a wig, doesn’t mean you can be miserable for an hour!’

On the contrary, she thinks the overarching silliness of drag is essential. She tells me that in her life outside of Ginger she can be quite anxious about the way that she is perceived in social situations, but that drag presents an opportunity to alleviate some of those anxieties for audience members. ‘I see my job in drag as to be the most ridiculous person in the room – and that lets everybody else off the hook,’ she explains.

Episode five of the latest season of Drag Race saw the Queens take on a new challenge: pantomime. The episode was a surprisingly heartfelt one, with contestants sharing memories of watching beloved pantomime dames as their first exposure to drag performances. Ginger tells me that the first pantomimes she saw in the North East were at her mum’s local amateur dramatic club, but she reserves a special admiration for the Theatre Royal’s Chris Hayward. ‘I really think Chris Hayward is the best in the business, and maybe one of the best that’s ever done it to be honest. I think he’s so funny, so warm, and so accomplished. He really is absolutely top of the game. I want his job!’ she laughs, before quickly adding,‘I’m sure he’s got many, many years left in him so I might be waiting a long time.’

I ask her how it feels to know that young people are now seeing Ginger and her fellow queens representing the North East on a platform as big as Drag Race.’ It's a huge privilege, it really is,’ she says.

‘When you look back, you wouldn’t believe some of the things that were printed in the newspapers and talked about on television about the lives of queer people. That stuff still exists – there are still people out there who are bad intentioned and homophobic – but what’s different now is that there is some balance at least. 

‘There are people out there that younger people can see existing and thriving and succeeding in life. That’s the thing that I didn’t see. It’s a great privilege to be that for a younger generation of people.’

Ginger will be performing in Angels of the North at 02 City Hall Newcastle on 15th April at 7pm.
To book tickets and find out more visit

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